Photo by John Russell
Goaltender Chris Mason turns aside Keith Tkachuk's shot en route to stopping all three St. Louis shooters in the game-deciding shootout.
Paul Kariya scored a shootout goal and goaltender Chris Mason stopped all three shooters he faced as the Nashville Predators overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
The win gives the Predators a 21-8-3 record on the season and three straight victories. Nashville retains a three-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings for first place in the Central Division standings.
With the game still tied at 2-2 after a four-on-four overtime session, Nashville opted to let the Blues take the first shot in the alternating shootout. Mason used his right leg pad to stop Martin Rucinsky on a shot low to the left side of the goal. Steve Sullivan shot first for the Predators and missed the net on his chance. Mason then blockered away a shot by Keith Tkachuk, and Kariya picked the upper left corner on goaltender Manny Legace to give Nashville the 1-0 lead in the shootout.
"I tried to get a feel for if he was coming out or if he was staying back in the net," Kariya said of Legace. "[Sullivan] said he was really far back in the net so I was thinking shot. That's an advantage to go second, that's for sure."
Doug Weight was the final hope for the Blues and his attempt to put a backhand shot through Mason's legs was snuffed out when the Nashville goalie shut the door.
"I like [shootouts]," Mason said. "My last shootout (a 7-6 home loss to Minnesota on Nov. 4) wasn't very good so I was looking forward to my next one to kind of get a little redemption. I felt good tonight too. I was seeing the puck. Those guys came in and I just tried to not commit until they made a move. I just tried to get my body in front of the puck and was able to do that tonight."
Kariya also scored a power-play goal 10:34 into the second period to cut the Blues lead in half, then Scott Nichol added his fifth of the season at 19:43 to send the Predators into the second intermission even on the scoreboard.
Kariya drew the penalty that resulted in the power play, using his speed to create a near breakaway that defenseman Barret Jackman broke up by slashing Kariya. During the man advantage, Predators blueliner Marek Zidlicky made a good play to hold the puck in at the right point, allowing Kariya to swoop in and fish the puck free. Kariya skated off the right boards and wound up for a slapshot from high in the zone. His shot beat Legace high for Kariya's seventh tally of the season. That made it 2-1 at 10:34 of the second.
Nashville was killing off the fourth Blues power-play late in the period when Sullivan delivered a hit along the left-side boards in his own zone to pop the puck loose. With Nichol at his right, Sullivan pushed the play up ice while Josef Vasicek emerged from the penalty box after serving his two minutes. Vasicek waited at the offensive blue line, took a pass from Sullivan and then returned the puck for the oncoming forward. Sullivan pulled up along the left wall in the Blues' zone and centered to Nichol. The 5' 9" center known for his hard-nosed checking moved around a defender, stormed down the slot, veered right, and released a shot while falling. The scoring bid beat Legace between the legs to make it 2-2.
"I tried to get [Legace] to move across a little more," Nichol said. "[Sullivan] made a great pass to me in the slot. I actually looked back for [Sullivan] and I just put it on net. It was the end of a penalty kill and I was a little tired. So I just shot it hard and low and hoped for the best and it went in."
Tkachuk scored on the first shift of the game to give St. Louis an early 1-0 lead. Tkachuk carried the puck down the right wing, cut in front of the net and held the puck until Mason was stretched out flat on the ice. Tkachuk's eventual shot from low in the left circle went high over Mason and into the far side of the net to make it 1-0 at the :29 mark.
Later in the period, penalties to Darcy Hordichuk (elbowing) and Greg Zanon (delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass) at 9:09 and 9:27, respectively, set up a lengthy 5-on-3 power play for the Blues. Mason made strong saves on Dennis Wideman and Lee Stempniak before St. Louis called its 30-second time-out 1:12 into the two-man advantage to talk things over. Tkachuk won the ensuing face-off, which was in the left circle of Nashville's zone, and Wideman passed the puck to Weight who was drifting to the right side of the zone. Weight's one-timer beat Mason low to make it 2-0 in favor of the Blues with 10:43 gone in the period.
"We said, 'Shut them down and chip away,' and we did that in the second period," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of his first intermission instructions to his team. "We got on even terms and that allowed us to win the hockey game."
The Predators departed right after the game for St. Louis, where they will face the Blues in the second half of a home-and-home series Sunday at 5:00 p.m. CT. Nashville has now won 10 straight meetings with the Blues.
NOTES: Nashville is now 3-1 in shootouts this season, with wins away against the New York Islanders, the New Jersey Devils and at home vs. St. Louis. The lone shootout loss came at home against Minnesota... Goaltender Chris Mason is 2-1 in shootouts this season. He made his 11th straight start and is 7-3-1 in that span... The Predators are 3-3 in overtime this season, having lost three straight games that went to extra time (losses in overtime to Vancouver and Chicago and the shootout loss to Minnesota)... Paul Kariya's second-period goal was his first power-play tally of the season. Nashville is 7-0-0 when Kariya scores. Kariya has five points (1g-4a) over the past three games and is 3 for 4 on shootout attempts (8 for 11 all-time)... Steve Sullivan posted an assist and has four points (3g-1a) in his last two games... The Predators have outscored opponents 48-18 in the second period this season... Scott Nichol scored his first goal since Nov. 20 (12 games ago). Nashville is 5-0-0 when Nichol scores... The Predators penalty killers went 5 for 6 against the Blues, with the only goal against coming during a 5-on-3 power play. Nashville's penalty killers have now killed off 56 of 62 chances in the last 14 games... Nashville's power play went 1 for 8 and is now 7 for 31 (23 percent) over the past five games... The Predators are 9-0-3 in their last 12 games at home and 6-3-1 against Central Division opponents... Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo were scratched from the Nashville lineup.